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Netanyahu meets Hollande, pays homage to Merah victims

Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due in France Wednesday for a two-day visit, his first since President François Hollande took office. The two leaders are expected to discuss Iran's nuclear programme and anti-Semitic violence in France.


Netanyahu will meet Hollande at the Elysée presidential palace, where the Israeli leader is expected to push France for tougher sanctions on Iran, which it accuses of being in the process of setting up a nuclear weapons programme.

Netanyahu was also to meet French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. The Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the conflict in Syria were likely to come up, according to aides to both leaders.

But the Israeli prime minister's visit has its critics.

“Netanyahu represents a very ideological wing of the nationalist right in Israel,” Richard Wagman of the French-Jewish Peace Union told RFI. “His foreign affairs minister is Avigdor Liberman, which is the Israeli equivalent of Marine le Pen. He’s on the far right and he’s the chief of Israeli diplomacy. Netanyahu has got a lot of partisans in France but he’s got some adversaries as well, including in the Jewish community.”

On Thursday, Netanyahu will travel to Toulouse to pay homage to the Jewish victims of Mohammed Merah, who killed seven people, including a rabbi and three Jewish children, earlier this year.

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Netanyahu also plans to meet representatives of Toulouse's Jewish community while there.

Nicole Yardeni, the President of the Council of French Jewish Institutions (Crif) in the Midi-Pyrénées region, said that Netanyahu’s visit will strengthen France’s fight against anti-Semitism.

“This is an extraordinary gesture, a very strong message of unity against this threat that is weighing on all of humanity,” Yardeni told the AFP news agency.

Since the March killings, France has known several subsequent incidents of anti-Semitism, causing Hollande to tighten security around places of worship and strengthen terrorism laws in France.

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